In the run-up to the Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match set for London in November, I will be previewing their prospects. The match pits Magnus Carlsen from Norway, the highest-rated player in the history of chess and world champion since 2014, against the top-ranked American grandmaster, Fabiano Caruana. Their chessboard styles could not be more different. Like his great predecessors Lasker and Karpov, Carlsen favours wars of attrition. Caruana plays more aggressively, openly and fluently, clearly influenced by Bobby Fischer. Who will win? My heart prefers Caruana, but my head says Carlsen, probably by the points score of 6½ to 4½. Essential reading for students of the match will be Caruana: Move by Move by Cyrus Lakdawala (Everyman Chess), from which the following game is taken.
Anand-Caruana: Tal Memorial, Moscow 2013; Ruy Lopez
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 0-0 8 h3 Bb7 9 d3 d5 Caruana plays in Marshall Gambit fashion anyway. 10 exd5 Nxd5 11 Nbd2 Anand plays it super-safe and refuses the pawn grab on e5. The critical line runs 11 Nxe5 Nd4! 12 Nd2 c5 13 c3 Nxb3 14 Nxb3 Qc7, when Black’s bishop pair offer decent compensation for the missing pawn, V. Gashimov-E. Tomashevsky, Fidé World Cup, Khanty-Mansiysk 2011. 11 ... f6 12 c3 Kh8 13 Bc2 Qd7 14 Nb3 Anand plays for a d3-d4 break. He has played too cautiously to claim an opening edge. 14 ... a5 15 a4 bxa4 16 Rxa4 Ncb4 (see diagram 1) Caruana sacrifices a pawn to pick up the bishop pair in an open position. 17 Rxa5 Nxc2 18 Qxc2 Nb6 19 Rxa8 Rxa8 20 Nbd2 g5 Caruana commits himself to a risky pawn push to enhance his kingside attack, yet this is not a move choice distorted by an overly optimistic assessment. A pure strategist would be more tempted by the safer 20 ... c5, locking down White’s d3-pawn as a target. 21 Nh2 Rd8 22 d4 exd4 23 cxd4 Bb4 24 Re2 Qxd4 25 Ndf1 Now Anand just has a bad position with no material to compensate. Correct is 25 Qxc7 Qd5 26 Nhf3 Na8! 27 Qc2 Rc8 28 Qd1 and White’s extra pawn compensates for his otherwise passive position. 25 ... Qc5 26 Qxc5 Bxc5 27 Rc2 Bd6 28 Ng4 Kg7 29 Bd2 Kg6 30 Nge3 f5 (see diagram 2) Black’s plan is to keep expanding on the kingside. 31 Nc4 Nxc4 32 Rxc4 Ra8 33 Rc1 f4 34 Bc3 h5 35 Nd2 Bd5 36 f3 Anand hopes to use e4 as an outpost for his knight but underestimates the cost of weakening his e3-square. His unpleasant but perhaps best option is to sit passively with 36 Re1 Ra4 37 Kf1. 36 ... Bc5+ 37 Kf1 Be3 38 Ke2 Bc4+ 39 Ke1 Re8 40 Kd1 Bxd2 41 Kxd2 Re2+ 42 Kd1 Rxg2 43 Bd4 Be2+ 44 Ke1 Bxf3 White has no hope in the ending. 45 Rxc7 Re2+ 46 Kf1 Rh2 47 Rg7+ Kf5 White resigns